‘Lab rat’ label hurts writer

News of nutritional experiments conducted on children at residential schools brings back bad memories for Port Alberni woman.

To the Editor,

Re: Red Cross not part of experiments, July 25.

Being compared to a lab rat is hurtful.  Discovering that we were deliberately starved as children in residential school raises strong emotions; sadness, anger and frustration added to the fact that we were little children who could do nothing but endure.

The news story of July 18, brought back memories – deeply buried – accompanied by a sense of desperate sadness as I re-experienced what I did to try to make my hunger go away.  The most desperate act was to pick up old, dry plants and peel the outside bark to eat the softer, inner part as we were on Sunday afternoon walks, being herded like cattle in the field around the Anglican church.

Is it any wonder that a knee infection would not heal and I was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where I had nightmares due to hospital staff coming to the door of my room to look at the kid whose head was wrapped in a towel, being deloused?

In spite of the fact that an apple orchard existed beside the girls’ playground, we were forbidden to go over the fence to get any apples.  Sometimes when no one was watching, a girls would crawl under the fence and quickly toss the apples to us. If caught, we had to give the apples back.

In Port Alberni, a few days after the story broke in the news about this “nutrition experiment,” I had a heated discussion with someone who proceeded to describe how aboriginals don’t know how to work and expect everything to be handed to them.  I was fortunate to have another female residential school survivor back me up, while other people observed.

During the discussion, a non-native male silently moved closer to us two women. His non-verbal message did not go unnoticed by the group. I appreciate the compassion that he silently demonstrated.

Wilma Doxtdator,

Port Alberni

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